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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding read
Sugar Island tells the story of Emily, a young English actress who, while working in America, falls in love with and marries an American lawyer. Not long after their wedding he is called back to run his family's sugar plantation on St Simon's Island off the coast of Georgia. Emily had no idea that he was anything other than a lawyer and so it is a huge shock to end up...
Published on 12 Jan 2011 by Rosie Hardy

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sugar coated Mills and Boon
This was a book group choice otherwise I would never have purchased a hardback with such a whimsical cover. However, as this book has received many plaudits, and the author is an academic, I entered into the spirit of the "based on a true story" vibe surrounding the novel. I have had to speed read it as the nauseating detail of a country which exists only in the author's...
Published on 24 April 2011 by patsabfab


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rewarding read, 12 Jan 2011
This review is from: Sugar Island (Hardcover)
Sugar Island tells the story of Emily, a young English actress who, while working in America, falls in love with and marries an American lawyer. Not long after their wedding he is called back to run his family's sugar plantation on St Simon's Island off the coast of Georgia. Emily had no idea that he was anything other than a lawyer and so it is a huge shock to end up living as the wife of a slave owner. She keeps a diary of her life there, detailing the horrific and cruel practices that were common on plantations. As the novel is based on real diaries written at the time - late 1850s - the detail is as harrowing as it is authentic. The beauty of the island provides a stark contrast to the horrors being perpetuated on the plantation. The colours, textures, scents and sounds convey a real sense of place and combine to underline the terrible dichotomy of Emily's life there. Her life is a struggle to come to terms with the fact that the man she loved can be so brutal and she finds that her attempts to improve the slaves' lot actually make it worse. She can't leave the island as she has too much to lose, yet how can she stay and live a life of relative luxury in the midst of such deprivation. This novel is beautifully written and, though harrowing to read, it is ultimately rewarding for its depiction of Emily's struggle and her determination to stay true to her principles.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable read, 27 May 2012
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This review is from: Sugar Island (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book, its is written in a slightly whimsical way in parts, true to the time period its set in.
Touchng on terrible treatment of slaves, but not too deeply.
It's not meant to be a documentory or a heavy drama but a lighter read.
I still found it iteresting and would recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sugar coated Mills and Boon, 24 April 2011
This review is from: Sugar Island (Hardcover)
This was a book group choice otherwise I would never have purchased a hardback with such a whimsical cover. However, as this book has received many plaudits, and the author is an academic, I entered into the spirit of the "based on a true story" vibe surrounding the novel. I have had to speed read it as the nauseating detail of a country which exists only in the author's imagination, the jagged movement of time (it was a week later....), the ludicrous storyline and the one dimensional characters have left me cold. The condescending use of a supposed vernacular for the "niggers" set my teeth on edge as did the whole Charles bad/Emily good issue. The experience was akin to reading an over-long essay by one of my senior pupils who had been sitting with a thesaurus in order to use a wider vocabulary than she possessed - I was left itching for the blue editor's pencil.
My advice would be to save your money and wait till there is a paperback edition of this thinly disguised Mills and Boon - better still - use the library copy - better yet - don't waste precious hours of your life reading it at all.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars sugary nonsense!, 22 Feb 2011
By 
Mr. D. McKenna "foliofreak" (East Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sugar Island (Hardcover)
Sugar Island is Sandija O'Connell's second book which follows from her first historical version of the sugar trade. Unfortuntely I found this book to be very immature in both content and characterisation in its depiction of plantation life and the lives of the wealthy owners. The story line is extremely predictable....very disappointing read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5* Superb, sensitive, thoughtful and powerful, 2 Mar 2011
This review is from: Sugar Island (Hardcover)
I found Sugar Island a thoughtful and, in many ways, a powerful piece of writing. While I broadly expected the plot to follow the pattern it did, its originality consisted in the way that the story was treated. I waited with trepidation for the denouement; it was handled superbly. Throughout the book much of the interaction of the characters was deftly described with no words wasted and yet whether black or white rendered in their full humanity or lack of it.

I was taken with the scenic descriptions, they were sensitively and knowledgeably woven the background into the story and into the sensitivities of the characters.

The main character, Emily Harris, was obliged in a sense to follow the path of liberal reformers in that kind of situation. But O'Connell blended her original naiveté with a horrific sense of the gradual discovery of the injustices and horrors of Southern slavery, not least the manner in which the blacks were trapped within the system and the plantation owners imprisoned in the cages of their minds.

I read the book quickly which is what one should be able to do with a novel. Its action, and indeed its thinking, moved at a pace that kept the reader's interest going.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, but not fantastic, 5 Aug 2012
By 
T. Ljubic-Brown (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sugar Island (Paperback)
This book is an interesting, if harrowing, read and provides details of a brutal and terrible time in history. The juxtaposition of the mesmerising island with its beautiful plant and animal life and the hell on earth of the life of the slaves makes this a worthwhile, if sometimes difficult read. My issue is with the main character, Emily. For a well educated woman, a published writer no less, and a celebrated acress she is portrayed as excessively naive and annoyingly slow on the uptake of her situation. A slightly more feisty heroine, which the original Fanny Kemble on whom the book is based, undoubtedly was, would have been preferable.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK, 30 April 2012
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This review is from: Sugar Island (Kindle Edition)
I heard this book being reviewed on the radio and got the impression that it was a five star read. However, I was disappointed in the style of writing. I felt that there was too much detail of scenery but not enough of the feelings of the characters and found myself skimming over passages. The potential is there for a great novel but it turned into a mediocre one.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sugar Island, 13 April 2011
This review is from: Sugar Island (Hardcover)
An absorbing and harrowing fictionalisation of a brutal time in human history, this story details not only the plight of black slaves but also the powerlessness and struggle of women at that time, of all colours.

A claustrophobic and ominous mood is established early on in the story which compels the reader on through the unfolding tragedy. The vivid descriptions of dense vegetation and oppressive heat on the island accompanies Emily's realisation that she is both trapped in her marriage and on the island, but her personal tragedy is always set against the suffering of the abused slave population.

The detail from the author's research lends a verisimilitude to the story and juxtaposes the beauty of the southern states with the horrors of the slave trade. The increasing sense of doom, underlined by the impending war, drives the plot towards the story's dramatic climax, and makes this book a real page-turner.

An emotionally-absorbing story with well constructed characters and an exciting plot. A highly-recommended read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, 10 April 2011
This review is from: Sugar Island (Hardcover)
Sugar Island is a fictional story, although it is loosely based on the life of Fanny Kemble, a noted British actress and writer, set around the time of the American Civil War.

Emily Harris arrives in America in 1858 with her father. An actress of note from England, she has come to America on a tour. Early the next year she is just finishing the Christmas Season in New York when she meets Charles Brook. An eloquent, considerate man, they form a friendship. When her father dies leaving Emily alone in America the friendship becomes romance, and the couple marry. They begin their honeymoon in Italy, intending to visit Emily's family in England as a part of their travels, however, a message to Charles means that the trip is cancelled and they rush back to the Southern States where Charles' Plantation is in financial trouble. The true nature of Charles Brook is revealed. He owns 700 slaves. Men, women and children, all living in poverty and suffering systematic abuse from their owner. Her shock turns to horror as she learns how they live, and her own - and her new daughter's - liberty and wellbeing is threatened when she at first befriends, and then sides with some of the slaves. As war threatens Charles' way of life, her actions have harsh, far reaching consequences.

Emily is a nave and innocent young lady who is totally unprepared for the reality of her new life, but she has a strong sense of justice and a fire in her that Charles cannot extinguish. Charles is a mean spirited, domineering, stubborn man who is used to his way being the only way. This is a story of two plots. The love followed by disillusionment and disgust that Emily feels for Charles, and her fight for the rights of the slaves; the slaves who are raped, beaten, starved and humiliated routinely. The shock and revulsion when she realises that some of the slaves' children are of paler skin and look remarkably like the Plantation owner. The imagery is stark and beautifully executed, the plotline is very believable. Inn so many stories it is hard to imagine a face for a character, but in Sugar Island, I could see the sneer, the greasy hair, the swagger of Charles. I could smell the slaves' village, and hear the sound of the slaves in the fields. The description of the slaves' hospital is enough to bring one to tears - and the sounds and smell are enough to induce queasiness.

This is not a history book, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the timeline. However, it is so believable. From the (very non Politically Correct) language to the descriptions of the life of the slaves, I was there.

Don't enter this book expecting action on every page, nor should you expect a beautiful romance. It's a thought provoking and sometimes harrowing tale comparing two very different worlds; that of Emily and Charles - rich and well appointed, and the horror of a life of slavery. A tale of betrayal and inequality.
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Sugar Island
Sugar Island by Sanjida O'connell (Paperback - 15 Mar 2012)
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